Vermont Humanities

From the Executive Director

Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup on the steps of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library

As the summer heats up and we move into the fifth month of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are more grateful than ever for your support and commitment to the humanities. Times are hard, but your investment in our work shows that you understand the important roles that literature, history, art, religion, philosophy, and ethics play in our daily life and in our struggle to live up to the ideals of our democracy.

Our 2019 Annual Report, with photos, a video, and a listing of our 2019 contributors, is now available on our website. Our many accomplishments last year culminated in a partnership with the Flynn Center to present civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis and his March: Book One co-author Andrew Aydin as part of Vermont Reads 2019.

While this year has brought challenges to us and every other cultural organization, we’ve accomplished a lot during this spring and summer with your help.

  • We are a leader in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Working in close partnership with the Vermont Arts Council, we have distributed $772,500 in Federal CARES Act relief grants to 122 cultural organizations, located in all 14 Vermont counties.
  • The $11,000 our supporters contributed in response to our spring appeal is being distributed to individual cultural workers in need through the Clemmons Family Farm and the Vermont Abenaki Artisans Association. Thank you.
  • We worked with a coalition of cultural leaders to advocate for additional relief, securing $5 million in Vermont CARES Act funding for cultural organizations, with support from the legislature and the governor. This will help ease the tremendous hardship experienced by these organizations and by the over 40,000 Vermonters who make their living in cultural and creative sector jobs.
  • Since the first week of the shutdown, we have met our public mission with enthusiasm and creativity. We have presented many exclusive events online, created by luminaries like presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco and Pulitzer Prize winner David Blight.
  • After the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, we joined with many state humanities councils across the nation in declaring that Black Lives Matter. We turned over our platform to Black Vermonters and humanists as protests continued around the country. Many of these public presentations have garnered hundreds and sometimes thousands of views.

And that brings us up to the present moment. We are deeply grateful to those who have participated in our online events, called your legislators, contributed to our relief funds, and supported the many cultural institutions that are meaningful to you. Without your help, organizations like Hildene, the Old Stone House, the Barre Labor Hall, and Rutland’s Paramount Theater would not survive. We are so thankful for everything you are doing to help Vermont’s cultural institutions weather this pandemic.

Enjoy photos, videos, and other memories from a wonderful year.

So what’s coming next?

  • Vermont middle school teachers leapt at the chance to move Humanities Camps into virtual spaces. Nine camps will take place during the summer, with many of them focusing on documentary photography in this time of physical distancing.
  • Our Fall Conference, a mainstay of our work for 46 years, will this year become a rolling conference that begins in August with free online events. Our theme is “Democracy 20/20”.  Civic engagement is undoubtedly one of the most important issues for Vermonters and Americans at this critical time. We’ll soon share the schedule of virtual events, and we hope to gather safely in small groups for in-person lectures and workshops in October and November.
  • First Wednesdays will launch in October with in-person events with our library partners around the state, if they are ready to welcome us, and also with a series of online events. We hope that you’ll join us, either live in your local library if possible, or online from your home.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas will continue as our Vermont Reads choice through the 2020-2021 academic year. This award-winning novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement can serve as a critical catalyst for discussion and action, and we hope that it will inspire readers to make change in their own communities.

And of course, we will continue to advocate for relief and recovery for cultural organizations and for all Vermonters during the coming months and years. We are thankful for all you have done for us in the past, and we hope that you will continue to stand with us in support of Vermont’s cultural life now.
If you can, please make a gift today.


Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup signature

Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup
Executive Director

Photo of Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

Vermont Humanities*** August 4, 2020